Heart Healthy Ways to Dine With Your Valentine

Julie Master, D.O.

Can getting a good night’s sleep be better for your heart?

Studies show that insufficient sleep can be tied to high blood pressure and other chronic conditions like asthma and arthritis. In addition, people suffering from the worst cases of insomnia had a higher chance of having a heart attack.

One common causes of obstructive sleep apnea in adults is excess weight and obesity, and obesity has been a known accomplice in the development of heart disease.

So how do you begin to take control? According to Julie Master, D.O., cardiologist at Riverview Medical Center, Jersey Shore University Medical Center and Bayshore Community Hospital, managing your diet to include plenty of heart-healthy foods is a great way to start.

Dr. Julie Master's Heart Healthy "Master List"

Blueberries - "Blueberries are simply brilliant when it comes to nutrition," says Dr. Master. "Their anthocyanins give them their deep blue color and support heart health. Blueberries also have beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and fiber."

Salmon - "A top food for heart health, salmon is rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3s may lessen the risk of heart rhythm disorders and lower blood pressure. Salmon also lowers blood triglycerides and helps curb inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other naturally oily fish a week."

Master Tip: "Bake in foil with herbs and veggies. Toss extra cooked salmon into fish tacos and salads."

Tuna - "Tuna is another good source of omega-3s, and it generally costs less than salmon. Albacore (white tuna) has more omega-3s than other tuna varieties. Reel in these other sources of omega-3s, too: mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and anchovies."

Master Tip: "Grill tuna steak with dill and lemon. Choose tuna packed in water, not oil."

Walnuts - "A small handful of walnuts a day may lower your cholesterol and ease inflammation in your heart's arteries. Walnuts are packed with omega-3s, monounsaturated fats, and fiber. The benefits come when walnuts replace bad fats, those in chips and cookies."

Master Tip: "Walnut oil has omega-3s, too; try it in salad dressings."

Almonds - "Slivered almonds go well with vegetables, fish, chicken, and desserts. They're chock full of plant sterols, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Almonds may help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, if you favor them over other fats. Grab a small handful a day."

Master Tip: "Toast almonds to enhance their creamy, mild flavor."

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - "This oil, made from the first press of olives, is especially rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which can help protect your blood vessels. It's also a good source of monounsaturated fats, which are a better choice than saturated fats (such as butter) for your cholesterol."

Master Tip: "Use a little bit for salads, on cooked veggies, or with bread. Look for cold-pressed and use within 6 months."

Edamame  - "These green soybeans have moved beyond Japanese restaurants, where they're a tasty appetizer. They're packed with soy protein, which can help lower blood triglyceride levels. A half cup of edamame also has 9 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber -- equal to four slices of whole wheat bread."

Master Tip: "Try frozen edamame. Boil and serve warm in the pod."

Tofu - "Serve up tofu, and you get a great form of vegetarian soy protein with its heart-healthy minerals, fiber, and polyunsaturated fats. It can take on the taste of the spices or sauces you use to cook it."

Master Tip: "Chop firm tofu, marinate, then grill or stir-fry, going easy on the oil. Add tofu to soups for protein with no added fat."

Black Beans - "Black beans are packed with nutrients including folate, antioxidants, and magnesium, along with fiber, which helps control both cholesterol and blood sugar levels."

Master Tip: "Canned black beans are easy to add to soups and salads. Rinse to remove extra sodium."

Oranges - "This sweet, juicy fruit has the cholesterol-fighting fiber pectin as well as potassium, which helps control blood pressure. Research shows that orange juice may make your blood vessels work better and lower blood pressure a bit."

Master Tip: "A medium orange averages 62 calories with 3 grams of fiber."